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Bringing Employees Back Into The Workplace Following Furlough

August 13, 2020

Since lockdown came into place on the 23rd March 2020 in the UK, it has been business as usual for us here at Hart.  However, we appreciate that many businesses have and still are operating differently with employees.  Some business have furloughed all employees and are not trading, some are operating on skeleton employees with some home based and some are fully trading, and employees are all remote working.

Many of our clients are now considering how to manage employee’s returning to the workplace and how they will manage this.

Rebecca Collin who heads up our HR & Finance division has put together some hints and tips that you may wish to consider when looking at bringing employees back to the workplace on a phased return.

Furloughed Employees

The Covid-19 Job Retention scheme has been extended to October 2020, this has more than likely got you thinking about how this will affect your business and your employees in future.

You may wish to look at a phased return for some employees.  Wherever possible, employers should speak to employees before deciding or putting plans in writing. This can help employees understand and feel included in decisions.

Consider how you will decide who to bring back into the workplace.  Will this be based on employees’ personal circumstances or business needs and how you will decide this?

Make sure you that you have written agreements with employees currently on furlough, including any clauses where you may need to bring employees back quickly.  However, do consider that some employees may need to have notice in advance to return to work.  Here is a free template ACAS have produced https://www.acas.org.uk/furlough-letter-templates to help review and prepare furlough letters.

Check current individual furlough letters and end dates, with the extension to October 2020, do these need updating and a new letter issued for employee and company records?

The government guidelines have said we can return to the workplace, if safety measures for social distancing are in place.  Now is the time to start thinking about employees returning to work and potentially implementing agile working, flexible working or even new shift patterns that could be considered to support employees and minimise risk.

Hart Training and Recruitment offer a range of online training courses including Creating A Culture Of Flexibility https://www.hartrecruitment.co.uk/hart-training-services/creating-a-culture-of-flexibility/ this Free Online Master Class will be able to help you and your management team to lead your department to be able to work remotely and productively from home.

Look at any changes you are implementing that might affect someone’s employment contract, such as working hours, flexible working, or new shift patterns, does a new agreement/contract need to be issued.

Don’t forget to inform your finance and payroll teams! Keep them updated with as to when furloughed dates for employees start and end, including any changes to pay. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-which-employees-you-can-put-on-furlough-to-use-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme#employees-you-can-claim-for.

Employees should be encouraged to take any pre booked holidays, this is important so employees can keep mentally and physically healthy and rested.

Workplace and Environment

Many organisations are now conducting risk assessments in the workplace to safeguard employees and to make sure the 2-meter physical distance can be maintained where possible.

Perhaps you need to move office furniture around, look at having desks apart and even sitting people back to back rather than face to face.  Please remember any meeting rooms, entrances, and communal areas.

The Government recommend that a Covid-19 risk assessment in the workplace should take place on a regular basis and should be shared with employees.  Here is a link to free Covid-19 risk assessment templates: https://www.som.org.uk/return-to-work/

Have you considered PPE that may required in the workplace such as gloves, masks, and antibacterial hand gel?  How will you brief and train employees on PPE correct usage and hygiene measures such as hand washing?

Can any meetings with employees or customers take place virtually? It is still important to encourage remote meeting facilities and video technology to minimise 1-2-1 the need for employees to travel.  Here at Hart we have been using Zoom and Microsoft Teams to share documents, host client and team meetings as well as interviewing candidates.

Employees Mental Health and Wellbeing

Remember everyone is on a different journey during the current pandemic and it is important to note that some employees may be nervous about returning to the workplace.  Consider that some employees may need to arrange childcare or could be looking after someone vulnerable.   It’s important to understand everyone’s individual circumstances to allow for employees to adjust and clients to understand what the culture of flexibility may be.

Be open, honest and try to understand everyone’s journey with the current pandemic.  Here are some useful links to support with mental health and wellbeing, https://www.mind.org.uk/ https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-staying-at-home-tips/

Hart Recruitment has a number of divisions that can support you with HR advice and guidance on returns to work, risk assessments and any other short term needs you may have during Covid-19 to help prepare for when employees return to work.

Please follow us on our social media to stay up to date with our tips, advice, and opportunities we currently have available. If you need any support and advice, we are here to help even if it is just for a chat, please call us on 0121 360 6000. 

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